August 19, 2019
Low Carb Wins Again
By Michael D. Shaw
Up until quite recently, the standard mantra for a healthy diet was low fat, high carbs, moderate amounts of lean protein, and low salt. Many of those who advocated such an approach would also recommend the Mediterranean diet. However, this created some confusion.
For starters, the Mediterranean diet is neither low fat nor low sodium. Sure, the advocates will explain that the diet has mostly “good fats,” but the notion of saturated fat being the ultimate baddie is quickly disappearing. And, what could be more “Mediterranean” than a nice high-sodium olive? Besides, the real Mediterranean diet tends toward lower carbohydrates.
Some years ago, this column discussed a publication that came out of Sweden in September, 2013 entitled (in translation) “Dietary Treatment for Obesity: A Systematic Review Of The Literature.” The authors reviewed 16,000 studies, and concluded that a low-carb/high fat (LCHF) diet is more effective for weight loss than the highly touted (by virtually all the “experts”) inverse of low fat/high carb. Moreover, the stricter low-carbohydrate diet (20% of total calories) will lead to improved glucose levels for individuals with obesity and diabetes, and to marginally decreased levels of triglycerides.
One of the reasons this effort was undertaken is that LCHF diets were already being recommended by some physicians in Sweden, especially Dr. Annika Dahlqvist (use pulldown menu for English version). In fact, two overzealous conventional dietitians reported Dahlqvist to the National Board of Health & Welfare, which had the power to censor her, or even revoke her medical license. So, the Board reviewed the literature, and determined that LCHF actually is compatible with scientific evidence and best practices. That finding was released in January, 2008.
More details on Sweden’s great success with LCHF diets can be seen in this video of a lecture given by Diet Doctor Dr. Andreas Eenfeldt. Eenfeldt, like so many other converts to LCHF, became convinced after seeing how it helped his patients, along with taking a deep dive into the literature.
And now we hear from another Scandinavian country—Denmark. A study entitled “A carbohydrate-reduced high-protein diet improves HbA1c and liver fat content in weight stable participants with type 2 diabetes: a randomised controlled trial” was published on July 23, 2019. This effort was a collaboration between the University of Copenhagen, its affiliated hospitals, and Aarhus University. Co-author Thure Krarup, MD explains the purpose of the study…
“[T]o investigate the effects of the diet without ‘interference’ from a weight loss. For that reason, the patients were asked to maintain their weight. Our study confirms the assumption that a diet with a reduced carbohydrate content can improve patients’ ability to regulate their blood sugar levels—without the patients concurrently losing weight. Our findings are important, because we’ve removed weight loss from the equation. Previous studies have provided contradictory conclusions, and weight loss has complicated interpretations in a number of these studies.”
Krarup continues: “The study shows that by reducing the share of carbohydrates in the diet and increasing the share of protein and fat, you can both treat high blood sugar and reduce liver fat content.” He calls for further intensive research in large-scale, long-term controlled trials.
It was noted in some press releases promoting the study that “The findings are contrary to the conventional dietary recommendations for type 2 diabetics.” Given the growing body of evidence supporting LCHF—not to mention the programmed-in failure of HCLF—one might ask exactly what constitutes “conventional,” anymore.
Certainly, there are those who disagree, although many of these voices seem to demonstrate a variant of the “No true Scotsman” fallacy. That is, carbs are great, just as long you eat the right kind.
Let’s close with LCHF proponent Mark Sisson’s delicious takedown of another high carb advocate. It’s a fun read, I promise.